Several dozen Ward 6 residents turned out to Brandon Middle School on Tuesday to learn about organizing neighborhood watches.
The meeting, organized by Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin, drew 40-50 people and lasted about an hour and a half. During the meeting, the audience heard from and asked questions of Gavin, CPD Community Police Officer Rhonda Sanders and Capt. Brent Swan.
Gavin previously told The Dispatch he organized the meeting after a few Holly Hill residents reached out to him about starting neighborhood watches. He said Ward 6 has had such meetings in the past, but watches have fizzled after the initial excitement wore off and crime died down.
Sanders, addressing the audience, said neighborhood watches can’t be effective if they run for a few months and fade away.
“You can’t start this and let it fall in five months,” Sanders said. “You’ve got to be just as excited in five months.”
Residents signed a form with basic contact information at the meeting. Now, Sanders said she’ll divvy up the area into watches. She said she intendeds to break them up by neighborhood, in roughly 6-mile swaths, though some neighborhoods are spread out enough that they might require multiple watches.
She said she’ll need about four block captains per watch. They will serve as the primary contact points between the watches and CPD.
Sanders acts as a liaison between CPD and watches, and told the people at Tuesday’s meeting that they can contact her with any problems.
“A lot of people like to call 911, but some like that familiar face and I’m that face,” she said. “They give me their problems and I’ll tell the divisions within the police department what the problem is. They’ll get solved.”
Carolyn Judson, a Northaven Woods resident, said she found the meeting very insightful.
“I think it was right on time with a lot of the things that are going on in the city of Columbus as a whole,” she said. “We want to be informed and we want to try to help our neighbors. It was very nice that our councilman decided to pull the meeting together with some concerned citizens who were calling him about it.”
Brenda and Ray Toney, who live in Hickory Ridge, attended the meeting.
“We want to take our neighborhoods back,” Brenda said. “We want our neighborhoods to be safe.”
Ray said watches are vital to help fill the gaps when police can’t be somewhere.
“The police department can’t be everywhere all the time,” Ray said. “If you observe just little small things, like where I live, we know everything that’s going on. If I see a strange vehicle, I’ll wait to see what it’s going to do. It’s just trying to find a way to keep an eye on your neighbor.”
Gavin said Tuesday’s meeting was larger than those in the past. He said it not only served as an informational session about neighborhood watches, but as a chance for Ward 6 residents to meet each other.
“We brought a lot of people out tonight not just to learn about starting neighborhood watches, but for neighborhood togetherness,” Gavin said. “We’re all neighbors. No matter which part of Ward 6 you live in, we are all neighbors and it’s our duty to watch after each other.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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